Night Birds

Night Birds Mutiny at Muscle Beach LP/CD  (Fat Wreck Records)
By Rich Cocksedge

Every now and then a band comes along which I connect with immediately, a band whose new material is eagerly awaited and fortunately, more often than not, ends up with me proclaiming that it’s bloody marvellous when it arrives.  New Jersey’s Night Birds is one of those bands and the release of Mutiny at Muscle Beach has held my anticipation at dangerously high levels for a while now.  However, I now have the album and without a shadow of doubt it requires that proclamation: it is bloody marvellous!  (Actually it’s better than that as it is one of the best, if not the best, albums of this and many other years.)

This is the band’s third long player and one which finds Night Birds continuing to tread a path which connects the current day to those back in the 1980s when bands such as The Dead Kennedys, The Adolescents and many others of that ilk were exploding across the USA.  Night Birds certainly take their cues from such bands as they go for an in your face delivery supremely aided by Brian Gorsegner’s sharp and snotty vocals which snap out of my speakers, providing him with a perfect outlet for the day to day shit that builds up in life.  Obviously no band can survive on just one member and the musical accompaniment is top notch with P J Russo’s guitar adding to the mayhem as it maniacally shreds away, with the added bonus of having the ability to throw in the occasional surf riff for good measure.  The rhythm section of (new) drummer Darick Slater and bassist Joe Keller offer a seemingly perpetual high energy level that drives the songs as close to the edge of cohesiveness as can be achieved without losing control.  All in all, a Night Birds record is one that exudes the perfect antidote to lethargy and Mutiny at Muscle Beach doesn’t fail in that area, racing along at breakneck speed from beginning to end.

It’s not all about an approach based in hardcore though, as the band has also become renowned for some cracking surf-punk instrumentals, and one such offering is to be found at the tail end of the record in the form of “Miskatonic Stomp”, another classic to be added to the band’s arsenal.

The lyrical content of Night Birds has frequently found inspiration from B-movies, various aspects of pop-culture plus the wide world of horror, evidenced by the inclusion of a song entitled “King Kong” on this album. However, Mutiny at Muscle Beach has given me my favourite Night Birds song so far in the form of “Blank Eyes”, a track based in reality rather than any fantasy world.  It addresses a period in Gorsegner’s life when his wife was suffering from post-natal (postpartum) depression following the birth of their child.  What is conveyed is the sense of helplessness which took hold as he was unable to help the person he loved through a traumatic stage of her life (‘Watching my best friend, surrender to demons’) where she is ‘trapped in her own hell’ and attempts to help/support are almost futile. The magic is being able to produce a song out of that desperate personal situation that retains the frenzied Night Birds modus operandi without losing the message it contains.  The good news is that the family has come through the other side and are enjoying life as they should do.  “Blank Eyes” is the first song I’ve heard which tackles a subject that is often discussed in hushed tones and to some is not even treated as a serious condition.  Hopefully, it makes some people sit up and think about what many mothers go through, and what can be a major ordeal for them and those close to them.

Another of my favourite songs is the album’s title track (check out the great B-movie/Horror style video online too, it’s nice and bloodthirsty) which builds briefly and slowly before kicking and screaming into a short but purposeful life, careering all over the place and leaving me feeling totally exhausted as it reaches its conclusion.  This is just one more example of how this band can just accelerate from 0-60 mph in the blink of an eye.

Mutiny closes with yet another dose of tumult via “Left In The Middle” which, even if it’s the longest track on the album clocking in at a fraction under three minutes, keeps the frantic air alive and kicking all the way through to the last note.

I’ve not had the good fortune to see Night Birds live but am keeping my fingers crossed that the band’s touted one UK date next year will be an event I can attend.  If I were to have a bucket list then “Seeing Night Birds” would be up near the top of those things I really want to do so I am prepared to move mountains if needs be.